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Isles' struggles holding lead again prove costly

Wednesday, 03.31.2010 / 10:22 AM / NHL Insider

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

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Isles' struggles holding lead again prove costly
Holding a lead has been a season-long problem for the New York Islanders, who blew a 2-0 lead Tuesday night in a 4-3 loss to the Rangers.
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Seventy-six games into the season, New York Islanders goaltender Dwayne Roloson remains dumbfounded by what causes his team to surrender multi-goal leads.

Despite a 2-0 edge after the first period Tuesday night, the Isles failed to hammer what could have been the final nail in the New York Rangers' coffin. They didn't. Instead, the Islanders allowed the Rangers to rally for three goals in the second period and another in the third in a 4-3 decision at Nassau Coliseum.

It marked the eighth time this season the Islanders have blown a lead of two goals or more and lost the game. Cut that number in half, and Roloson's season probably wouldn't be ending on April 11.

"That's the way we've played all year," Roloson said after the Isles fell to 31-35-10, still a marked improvement over last season when the team finished with the fewest points (61) in the NHL. "We play one great period, and then we sit back. I just don't know why we don't play a 60- or 65-minute game."

Unlike most of his teammates, though, the 40-year-old Roloson is on the back end of his career. While he may be puzzled by the Isles' inability to close out victories, coach Scott Gordon is not.

"It's called experience," said Gordon, who is finishing up his second season as an NHL coach. "We can't accelerate that. That's going to come with time. Let's not kid ourselves … we had two pretty good periods tonight. The Rangers had one, and it was enough for them to win. It's not like we're that far off, but it does take time. That lack of experience is what these two years are for. Ultimately, we're going to learn from all this and identify what does give us success and what doesn't."

Shortly after Vinny Prospal made it a 2-1 game at 1:14 of the second period, the Islanders had a glorious opportunity to bust it open when they were handed a 59-second two-man advantage. But they failed to capitalize, and Olli Jokinen tied the game roughly 10 minutes later. Marian Gaborik put the Rangers ahead before the period ended, and they outshot the Isles 15-6.

"We didn't let up … we stopped attacking," Gordon said. "The thing that we did well in the first and third period is we pushed pucks, we advanced pucks and we established our forecheck. In the second period, we tried to play a controlled game."

Isles forward Blake Comeau, who tallied his 13th and 14th goals of the season in the loss, agreed.

"I thought we had a bit of a letdown," Comeau said. "I still thought we did some things right in the second, but it seemed like the mistakes we made in the second cost us, and they put them in the back of the net. It was a chance to close in on them and it was a chance to keep our playoff hopes going. We're still not out officially yet, but obviously those two points put us behind the 8-ball."

Gordon is hoping it's games such as the one that transpired Tuesday that will benefit his club in the long run. At this point, he appears to be simply searching for positives that can be carried into next season, when the Islanders will most likely have another high draft pick in training camp.

"It's frustrating," Gordon said. "From my side of it, I liked the way we moved on the power play in the second period. There were things there for us in the second period to build on. We didn't take advantage of it. Because we didn't take advantage of it, it gave them second life."

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter at: @BComptonNHL

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